Saturday, November 30- The Advent…of Advent

     Tomorrow is a special day in the church year. Tomorrow is the first day of…Advent. “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “arrival”. Advent is the period of waiting that starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. It is the time that we set aside to prepare for the arrival of a baby in a manger Who came to save the world…and to save us.

     So, if Advent means arrival, what arrival are YOU waiting for this Christmas? We all know the “right” answer…but is it the HONEST answer? You know what I mean. We are well aware that the answer to the question should be, “Of course we’re waiting for Jesus, Pastor!” But are you…REALLY?

     Think about it- what are the things you look forward to at Christmas? Well, we look forward to hearing the great music. We look forward to all of the beautiful decorations. We look forward to the parties. We look forward to the school programs. We look forward to the shopping. We look forward to the good food. We look forward to decorating the tree. We look forward to family. We look forward to presents- the list goes on…and on…and on!

     If you are a normal, red-blooded American with a special fondness for Christmas, you agreed with several points in that list. (Shoot- I didn’t agree with ALL of it…and I wrote it!) But did you notice something? There is NO mention, in that ENTIRE list, of the real reason we celebrate this holiday. The name of Jesus didn’t appear even ONCE! And yet, if we’re honest, my list could be seen as a relatively all-inclusive list…on the surface.

     It’s so easy to lose track of Christmas. It’s so easy to get so caught up in the stress and the strain of the season that, by the time December 15th comes, all we can do is pray that it will all be over soon. And what a SHAME that reality is!

     What will you focus on this Advent season? DON’T ignore or forget the music and decorations, the parties and the presents. Just put them in perspective. Focus on the fact that God chose…CHOSE…to put on our skin, come down among us and breathe our air…walk our sod. And let me tell you, my friend, it simply doesn’t get any better than that!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Life-Giving Christmas: Hope

Friday, November 29- Black Friday? Not on Your Life!

     It’s here. After all the hoopla. After all the build-up. It’s finally here. BLACK FRIDAY. (Cue the music) “Dum, dum, dum, duuuum!” Yes, Black Friday- the day when everybody and their dog goes out shopping. Oh. Joy!

     Do you know where Black Friday gets its name? It began in Philadelphia…the city of Brotherly Love. It actually started being called Black Friday as a way to describe the heavy, congested foot and vehicle traffic that was prevalent on the day after Thanksgiving. Then, around 1975, the name started spreading beyond Philadelphia. In a case of revisionist history, the “new” explanation for the name is that retailers traditionally operate at a financial loss (“in the red”) from January through November, with “Black Friday” signaling the point at which they start turning a profit- operating “in the black”. (The truth is that for some retailers, it’s a fairly true assessment. But for others (anybody thinking Walmart?), they are “in the black” WAY before Thanksgiving!

     One of the funniest memes (Google it) I have seen this season shows a woman pushing a FULL shopping cart while the caption reads, “Black Friday: because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” Funny! Funny…but painfully sad at the same time!

     Don’t misunderstand- we buy Christmas gifts. We LOVE to find just the right thing for people we love. I get MUCH more joy out of giving that I do receiving at this point in my life. But our society has gotten more than a little out of hand about the whole thing. According to the results of one poll I read, the average American will spend $801 this year on Christmas gifts. $801! I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have $801 EXTRA to spend on gifts. So I fall back on the title of the Mike Slaughter book- Christmas is NOT Your Birthday.

    Think about that for a  moment- Christmas is NOT your birthday. Your birthday is an important day. Every year, for a day, the focus is on…YOU! And that’s a great thing! So we should put the focus on the birthday boy or girl, right? Then who should receive the focus on December 25th? “Aawww SNAP, Pastor…” Christmas is about a baby in a manger who came to split time in half, to change the world, to change us. Let’s focus on THAT this Christmas!

     As for Black Friday, have at it…if that is your cup of tea. As for me, you will find me NOWHERE near a store today! I can’t tell the different between that and the worst idea I’ve ever heard!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Advent of…Advent

Thursday, November 28- Happy Thanksgiving!

     My older son is home…for FOUR days! My younger son is out of school…for FOUR days! My wife is here. It simply doesn’t get much better than that! (I WOULD like to see my extended family, but that gets harder and harder as we get geographically farther away from each other and kids keep getting married and having kids!)

     Today, we will have a quiet Thanksgiving. The turkey is in one of the ovens over at the church- one of the perks of living next door! (There IS a down-side as well, but there are CERTAINLY some perks!) The dressing is in our oven. The sweet potatoes and regular potatoes (Hey! We like potatoes…OK?!) are in separate pots on the stove, waiting to be mashed. The fresh green beans are in yet another pot on the stove. The Jello-pretzel salad is in the fridge. The sweet Hawaiian rolls are waiting to be heated up. Dinner will be soon.

     My immediate family- which consists of my wife, her parents, our two sons, the two dogs and me- will spend the day…hanging out. We have no big plans, other than a little house cleaning, some cooking and some eating. And frankly, I am more than OK with that!

     What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I’m thankful that I get to spend time with my family. I’m thankful to serve such an awesome church. I’m thankful for a God Who loves me…regardless. And this year especially, I’m thankful for another day to be upright, breathing and about His business. This has been a whirlwind year- not even a year, but 6 months- since I found out about the tumor in my head. I’m not going to lie- I wish I didn’t have it. BUT…this…THING…in my head has made me SO much more appreciative of…life.

     This holiday season, don’t waste a moment. Don’t take your days for granted. Don’t leave things undone. Don’t leave relationships unmended. Why? Because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So make the most of today. As that great theologian from Kung Fu Panda, Master Oogway, says; “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Happy Thanksgiving!      

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Black Friday? Not on Your Life!

Wednesday, November 27- That’s Just the Way It Is

    A Texan billionaire threw a party for his beautiful daughter. During the party, a Great White Shark was put into the swimming pool. The man announced, “Any man who can swim the 20’ across this pool and take the Great White challenge will get half my fortune AND my daughter’s hand in marriage!” Immediately, one hunky guy hit the water and swam like a man possessed across the pool. The guests all cheered. “Bravo! That was fantastic!” The father said, “That was the greatest act of courage I have ever seen. You can have half my fortune!” “I don’t want it.” “Well then, you can have my daughter’s hand in marriage!” “I don’t want that, either” “Well then, Son, what DO you want?” “I want to know who pushed me in the pool!”

      Today is the 8th and last week of our current Wednesday Bible Stud- Livin’ on a Prayer, focusing on the Beatitudes as found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

So far, we have looked at blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart and blessed are the peacemakers. The 1st 4 Beatitudes deal with our heart condition, while the last 4 deal with the results of that heart condition.

      Singer Bruce Hornsby recorded a song called The Way It Is. The lyrics include- “Standing in line, marking time, waiting for the welfare dime ’cause they can’t buy a job. A man in a silk suit hurries by, as he catches the poor old ladies’ eye, just for fun he says, ‘Get a job.’ That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way it is.”

     Today we look at the last Beatitude- blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Persecution means to  drive away, to overpower because of religion, race or beliefs, to exterminate. Can you imagine saying, “I’m so happy to have people pick on me and beat me up”? If that’s persecution, then what is the cause? In our case, it’s loyalty to Jesus. Jesus was not persecuted because He good or even because He was different. He was persecuted because others don’t understand the light of life that Jesus gives- it’s foreign to them.

     In 60 AD, Roman emperor Nero dipped Christians in tar, set them on fire and used them to light his garden. In 156 AD, Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was dragged before a Roman tribunal and given a choice- sacrifice to Caesar…or die. He refused. And his final prayer was, “Lord God almighty, I thank you that you have graciously thought me worthy of this day and this hour.” He was burned at the stake. Elijah P. Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine in 1802- the son of a Congregational minister. In 1826, he attended seminary in St. Louis. In 1834, he became the pastor of a Presbyterian Church. He then started a religious newspaper that advocated abolition of slavery. An angry mob destroyed his printing press. So he moved up the river a bit river to MY hometown- Alton, Illinois, where he continued advocating an end to slavery. 3 times his printing press was thrown in the Mississippi. Lovejoy said, “We distinctly avow it to be our settled purpose, never, while life lasts, to yield to this new system of attempting to destroy, by means of mob violence, the right of conscience, the freedom of opinion, and of the press.” In 1837, he installed a new printing press, was confronted by a new mob and was shot dead. An Alabama judge was thrown out of office for not removing the 10 Commandments from the wall. Communities are forced to remove Nativity scenes. The ACLU demanded that LA county remove a cross from its official seal

     Persecution comes in many forms. But as that great theologian Obi Wan Kenobi  said in Star Wars, “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” Persecution couldn’t kill the early church- instead, it became stronger and the Gospel spread faster.

     Throughout history, the faithful have had ministries, reputations, even lives destroyed for speaking the truth. The world persecutes Christians because they have a fundamentally different nature than unbelievers. They…we…believe that salvation brings new about a creation in us. And when we demonstrate God’s righteousness, we don’t compromise our life in Jesus Christ. In direct contrast to the world, we realize we owe everything to Him, that we were bought with a price.

     What would you do if someone asked you if you served Jesus and then threatened your life when you said yes? Light exposes darkness. Let the light of your life shine, so that it might expose the darkness. We have to withstand the temptations and pressures of the world so we can live more effectively for Jesus. If we live for Jesus, we can’t sit on the fence between faith and the world.

     But remember- we are not alone. Isolation is the enemy of the soul. When we think we are all alone, then we give up. But if we hang in there, what is our reward? In the Greek, the word for “blessed” means to have spiritual well-being, prosperity and joy. The blessing is truly out of this world- it is in heaven…the kingdom of God. It’s not based on any external influence. Instead, it is informed by an internal attitude. Standing in the face of persecution is never easy, but it’s a bit easier when we keep the reward in full view.

     Persecution develops character. It separates the committed from the casual. It refines us. OK, that’s persecution- then how do we respond to it? Often, we do it through retaliation, resentment and religious superiority. How should we respond?

We should leave- don’t look for trouble. Don’t develop a martyr complex. Sometimes we need to just make an exit. But we should also avoid compromise, because when we do, do you know how persecution ends? With our approve of the world’s standards and ethics. We end up living like the world lives.

     But we are called to please and obey…God, not people. We are called to love our enemies. If we are always trying to get even, then we will never get AHEAD. If you retaliate to persecution, then you just stoop to their level. And when you do that, who’s in control? We need to break the cycle. Instead of lashing out, we need to love. We need to pray for those who persecute, because hurting people hurt others. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When people put you down – build them up.

     Persecution comes in many forms. Have you been persecuted? Harassed? If not, why not? Christians don’t live so differently than others. For many Christians, faith in God has little impact on how they live. They watch the same movies and TV, listen to the same music. They dress the same, talk the same and pursue the same things in life. They are worried about what people will think. They fear they won’t fit in, that they’ll be made fun of, they won’t be accepted. But we are called to not copy the behavior and customs of the world, but live differently.

     If your answer to the question was “yes”- God knows, He sees and He cares. If you follow God in an ungodly world, you are going to stick out and not look like everyone else. If you are being persecuted, you’re probably doing something right!

If we’re serious about following Jesus, we will be criticized, persecuted and harassed. But the reality is that whatever you do – someone will criticize you! Don’t believe it? Become a pastor! Even if you do nothing, you will be criticized. And so I would rather be criticized for the right thing than the wrong thing…or nothing. I would rather be called a fool for following God than a wise man for following the devil.

     Jesus is on the hillside teaching- where are you? Are you loitering on the perimeter? Or maybe you’re on the outside row? Perhaps you’re scooting closer, longing to be a part, wanting to be seated in the inner circle? Let me assure you- the circle is wide open! There is always room for more.

     Back to the Bruce Hornsby song for a moment. The lyrics also include- “Hey little boy, you can’t go where the others go ’cause you don’t look like they do. That’s just way is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way is.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Beatitudes are building blocks of the Christian life. They help us to have a different quality of character and lifestyle than those on the “outside”. We are called to think and act differently, to be genuine, to practice what we preach. Standing up under persecution demands humbleness. If you didn’t tell your friends that you go to church…would they know?

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26- Mashed Potatoes

     Kids are great. They have the most imaginative minds and think of the greatest things. When my oldest son was little…probably about 4 years old…we were sitting at McDonald’s one day. He had the obligatory Happy Meal, and we were sitting in our obligatory plastic chairs, eating our obligatory meal, which wasn’t, by the way, terribly happy! I looked over and noticed that he seemed to be…inspecting…a French fry. He had bit the top of it off and was scrutinizing the inside. I asked him what he was doing, and he said- “I’m looking at the inside of this French fry and I’m wondering…how did they get these mashed potatoes inside this fry?” I looked at him as if he was outside him mind, but then…I bit into a French fry and looked in the middle. It DOES look like mashed potatoes in there! I envision these incredibly dedicated chefs with tiny piping tubes that they use to pipe icing on to cakes. The tubes are full of mashed potatoes (of course) and they take each individual hollow “French fry shell”, one by painstaking one, and they pipe those mashed potatoes right in! THAT would make French fries VERY expensive! AND very delicious!

     Mashed potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving dinner, aren’t they? I would say that, right up there with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes will be on the table of more homes this Thursday that any other food.

     Being both a baseball fan AND a lover of the potato, one of my favorite stories of all time revolves around a minor league catcher named Dave Bresnahan. He played for the Cleveland Indians minor league team in Williamsport, PA. It was late in the season and things were getting boring, so Bresnahan decided to spice up the game a bit. He walked in Weiss Market in Williamsport and…bought a potato.  

The 25-year-old catcher then took said potato to the ballpark and shaved off the skin. Then he waited for precisely the right moment. It came later that night, with Reading’s Rick Lundblade the runner on third base.

     Bresnahan called time, telling the umpire his glove had broken and that he needed to go to the dugout. He trotted over and came back with the potato hidden in his glove. The next pitch, by prior arrangement, was low and outside. Bresnahan gloved it, then fired toward third, apparently trying to pick Lundblade off. But third baseman, Rob Swain, who was Bresnahan’s roommate, knew he was supposed to let the throw sail by into left. Lundblade was fooled enough to race home, where he was totally mystified to find the catcher waiting with the baseball!

     Pandemonium broke loose and eventually, Lundblade was called safe and Bresnahan was yanked from the game by his manager for committing “an unthinkable act for a professional.” The next day, he was released by the Indians for “jeopardizing the integrity of the game”. Perhaps his .149 batting average may have had something to do with it.

     Here are some interesting potato facts:

1. The word potato comes from the Spanish word patata.

2. There are thousands of different potato varieties but not all are commercially available, popular ones include Russet, Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Desiree and Fingerling.

3. Based on 2010 statistics, China (NOT Idaho!) is the leading producer of potatoes.

4. Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago and were introduce to Europe by Spanish explorers who “discovered” them in the 16th century.

5. Contrary to popular myth and misconception, potatoes are an extremely nutrient-rich vegetable.

     -One medium potato contains 45 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.

     -Potatoes also contain potassium, B6, fiber and numerous other vitamins and minerals.

     -Potatoes provide one of the affordable and concentrated sources of potassium – more than bananas, tomatoes, broccoli and oranges.

     So, how DO they get those mashed potatoes inside those French fries? I have no earthly idea…but they sure are good! Have a bite for me this week!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Stuffing

Monday, November 25- Turkey

     Do you remember the classic Thanksgiving episode from that late, great sitcom- WKRP in Cincinnati? The radio station, run by the most ragtag bunch of folks ever assembled, decide to do a “turkey drop” as a Thanksgiving promotion. They decide to drop turkeys from a helicopter. But they drop LIVE turkeys. Copper Cob Award Winning newsman Les Nessman is on the scene and his “play-by-play” went like this:

     “I’m here with hundreds of people who have gathered to witness what has been described as perhaps the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving Day history. All we know for sure is that in a very few moments there are going to be a lot of happy people out here. Now the crowd is…the crowd is uh… curious but well behaved. And I think I hear something now. Uh… The crowd is moving out into the parking area. And… oh yes! I can see it now. It’s a… it’s a… helicopter and it’s coming this way! It’s flying something behind it and I can’t quite make it out. It’s a large banner and it says H A P P Y… T H A N K S… giving… from W… K… R… P! What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The ‘copter seems to circling the parking area now. I guess it’s looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air… There’s a third… No parachutes yet… Those can’t be skydivers. I can’t tell just yet what they are but… Oh my God! They’re turkeys! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! Everyone’s running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don’t know how much longer… The crowd is running for their lives. I think I’m going to step inside. I can’t stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can’t go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this. I don’t know how much longer I can hold my position here, Johnny. The crowd…”

     Then, the live coverage goes dead. The DJ in the studio, Dr. Johnny Fever says: “Les? Les? Les, are you there? Les isn’t there. Thanks for that on-the-spot report, Les. For those of you who’ve just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven!”

     As you might imagine, the fallout (no pun intended!) was swift and powerful. Later, in the station manager’s office, Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson offers up his explanation for what happened: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

    What are some of the Thanksgiving-themed TV shows that you look forward to every year? In addition, what are the other Thanksgiving traditions do you and your family participate in? I pray you get to do those things this year!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Mashed Potatoes

Sunday, November 24- Closing the Gap

     I was walking along the beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida one day when I stumbled upon an old brass lamp. I rubbed it on my sleeve to try and read the inscription when, much to my surprise, a genie popped out. “I will grant you one wish.” said the genie. “One?” I said. “What happen to THREE?” “Inflation!” “Oh, OK. Well, let’s see. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I really don’t wasn’t to fly there and I’d like to be able to drive my own car. So my wish is for a bridge from the coast of California to Hawaii!” The genie replied, “Are you crazy!?!? That would be almost impossible! Do you know how deep the ocean is? And that would be such a long bridge…it simply isn’t structurally possible. Make another wish!” Disappointed, I thought for a second and then said, “OK, then make me tall, smart and breathtakingly handsome!” The genie looked at me and said, “Would you like a TWO-lane or a FOUR-lane bridge?!”
     Every day, we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable…to dare greatly. Today, we wrap up our current sermon series, Daring Greatly, based on the book by Brene’ Brown. This series challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Each week, we consider the idea that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection to others…and to Christ.
     Proverbs 4:10-13 My child, if you listen and obey my teachings, you will live a long time. I have shown you the way that makes sense; I have guided you along the right path. Your road won’t be blocked, and you won’t stumble when you run. Hold firmly to my teaching and never let go. It will mean life for you.
     We need to be aware of the space between were we ARE and where we WANT to be. In 1969, a new sign appeared at every train stop of the London underground rail system. It was an incredibly simple sign, with just 3 words: Mind the Gap. In that context, it referenced the need for passengers to be careful when stepping over the gap between the train and the station platform. We too need to mind the gap…between where we are currently standing and where we want to go…where God is calling us to be. And minding the gap requires us to embrace our own vulnerability. We don’t have to be perfect…just committed to aligning our values with our actions.
     Genesis 45:1-11 Then Joseph could no longer keep his composure. The room was crowded with people so he ordered his attendants, “Send everyone out of the room!” Joseph didn’t want anyone else in the room when he finally told his brothers his true identity. But he began to cry so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the Pharaoh’s household heard it too! Joseph turned and addressed his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were too shocked to speak. They couldn’t answer, for they were so overwhelmed that they were standing in Joseph’s presence. Joseph said, “Come closer to me.” His brothers approached him cautiously. “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Don’t be upset or angry with yourselves any longer because of what you did. You see God sent me here ahead of you to preserve life. For famine struck this land two years ago, and there are five more years in which there will be no plowing or harvesting. God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you and your families survive this terrible ordeal and have a remnant left on earth. So it wasn’t really you who sent me here, but God; the same God who made me an advisor to Pharaoh, master of his household, and ruler over everyone in the land of Egypt.  Hurry now, go to my father, and relay this message: “Here is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master over all Egypt. Come to me and don’t delay. I’ll arrange for all of you to settle in the land of Goshen where you can be near me—you and all of your children and grandchildren, as well as your flocks and herds and everything you have. I will provide for you there. Since five more years of famine are still to come, I will make sure your household and everything you have will not descend into poverty.’”
     One beautiful Sunday morning, the pastor announced to his congregation: “My good people, I have here in my hands three sermons…a $4,000 sermon that lasts five minutes, a $400 sermon that lasts fifteen minutes, and a $40 sermon that lasts a full hour. Now, we’ll take the collection and see which one you have chosen!”
     Years before this interchange between Joseph and his brothers, those same brothers sold him into slavery in order to get rid of him. He was carried off to Egypt where was re-sold and lived as a slave for years. He was then thrown in prison on trumped up charges. And after years of life in prison, he was set free because he was able, with God’s help, to interpret a disturbing dream that Pharaoh had about a coming famine. Pharaoh was so taken by his skills that he placed Joseph, the former slave, in charge of all Egypt- second only to Pharaoh himself. In his new position, Joseph prepared Egypt for the famine he had foreseen. When the famine came, many people were forced to go to Egypt in search of food. Including Joseph’s brothers. He recognized them, but they didn’t recognize him. That fact put Joseph in an even greater position of power and authority. He could have offered up any number of responses from that position of power, but in the end…he chose instead to lead from a position of vulnerability.
     We often feel desperate for absolutes. It’s the human response to fear. And when other people leverage our fear and our need for certainty by converting spirituality into guilt and shame and turning faith into nothing more than compliance to rules- all instead of teaching and modeling how to wrestle with the unknown and how to embrace vulnerability- then the entire concept of faith is bankrupt. Faith minus vulnerability equals rule-following religion. Spiritual connection and faithful engagement isn’t built on compliance to rules. It’s the product of love, belonging and vulnerability.
     We don’t intentionally create cultures in our families, schools, communities, and organizations that fuel disengagement and disconnection. So then, how does it happen? Where’s the gap? The gap starts with the fact that we can’t give people what we don’t have ourselves. Who we ARE matters immeasurably more than what we KNOW or who we wish we were. The space between what we’re actually doing, thinking, and feeling and what we want to do, think, and feel is what I call “the disengagement gap.” It’s where we often lose our way because, even though we take big steps- even get a running start to try and jump across the widening gap- at some point the gap simply gets too big and we can no longer make the jump.
     Minding the gap is a daring and challenging strategy. We have to pay attention to the space between where we’re actually standing and where we want to be. More importantly, we have to practice the values that we’re holding up as important in our culture. Minding the gap requires an embrace of our own vulnerability- we’re going to be called upon to step up in new and uncomfortable ways. We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning our values with our actions.
     Most of us have a long list of prerequisites for feeling worthy- qualifiers that we’ve inherited, learned, and unknowingly picked up along the way. Most of those prerequisites can be labeled accomplishments, acquisitions, or external acceptance. It’s the “if/then” syndrome. You know- “If I do THIS, then I’ll be worthy” or “If I say THAT, then I’ll be worthy.” They may not be written down, and we may n
ot even be aware of the, but we all have an internal list of these prerequisites. Shame loves prerequisites. Worthiness, on quite the other hand, doesn’t have prerequisites. To be vulnerable is to be deeply seen. It is to love with your whole heart and put yourself out there. To feel vulnerable is to be alive- to exist as your most genuine self. Here are 3 truths about vulnerability:
1. Vulnerability is so much easier when you love yourself. When you don’t love all of you and are afraid to show people the less than stellar parts, the space between you and vulnerability is like the Grand Canyon. You will need all the courage you can get to make the leap across. But when you love yourself, and I mean all of you, you don’t worry so much if someone else doesn’t. And when you’re less afraid of rejection, you step right into that place of openness.
2. Vulnerability takes practice. You don’t just learn it once and then- ta-dah!- you’re easily open to everything and everyone. You have to practice at being less guarded and more willing to share the real you.
3. The rewards of vulnerability are immeasurable. When we chose to be open, to show our authentic selves, people become more willing to meet us there. And when we meet in the middle and formed that connection, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
     When we are vulnerable, we experience true connection- true love of self- and we begin to attract people who are inspired by our openness.
     Daring greatly isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. It’s uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting hurt. But as I look back on my own life, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as realizing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.
     Here are five ways to experience the power of vulnerability and better become the person God made you to be:
1. Be real. The first time I was speaking in front of a group, someone said to me, “Just be yourself!” I replied, “Be ME?! Why me?!” If you’re scared, say you’re scared. If you don’t know, say you don’t know. If you made a mistake, say you made a mistake. If you feel hurt, say you’re hurt. If you’re in love, say you’re in love.
2. Act with no guarantees. We can sit safely in our imaginations all day or we can fully commit to taking action, embracing the notion that we might well fail or get hurt. Small steps taken every day lead to big changes.
3. Ask for help. By admitting your weaknesses, you make room for other people’s gifts. If you notice yourself trying to do everything, take a step back and evaluate which aspects of the project or situation energize and excite you. Write them down. Then make a list of the areas that exhaust you. Seek help where you’re exhausted.
4. Get rejected. “No” makes room for the right “Yes” to come along. In what area of your life are you afraid of being rejected? How can you expose yourself to the possibility of being rejected 10 times this week? Through action comes growth.
5. Embrace your negative emotions. When we numb sadness and pain, we numb joy and happiness. Feeling the depths of our lows enables us to fully feel the pinnacles of our highs. It’s all connected.
     Vulnerability encourages us to take off our masks, to have the courage to be imperfect, the strength to love ourselves first, and the guts to let go of who we think we should be to become who God knows we really are.
     James 1:16-18 Don’t be fooled, my dear friends. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing. He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth.
     To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, we have to re-humanize our lives. In other words, we have to understand how scarcity and shame affects the way we live our lives. We have to learn how to engage each other with vulnerability. We have to recognize and rebel against shame. Make no mistake: honest conversations about vulnerability and shame are disruptive. The reason that we’re not having these conversations more often is because they shine the bright light of heaven into the dark corners of our souls. But I am convinced that we WANT to dare greatly. I am convinced that we want to show up, we want to learn, and we want to inspire. We are hardwired for connection, curiosity, and engagement. We crave purpose, and we have a deep desire to create and contribute. We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities, and be courageous. But when we no longer encourage each other to be daring, to be vulnerable, when we only measure each other by what we produce or how we perform, then turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion. What I’m asking is that we engage with each other, show up beside each other and learn from each other. Above all else, I’m asking that we each show up, let ourselves be seen and…be vulnerable. Dare greatly with me.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- Turkey